3 Ways to Balance Strategy and Flexibility for Better Omnichannel Customer Engagement

Every company has its own unique audience — and should have a unique approach to customer engagement to match. After all, when it comes to creating great customer experiences and achieving high levels of satisfaction, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that’s guaranteed to work for every brand.

That being said, when it comes to omnichannel engagement, there’s one factor that almost every company seems to agree is a necessity: flexibility. And it’s true that being willing to adapt to changing customer preferences and needs is important. But a customer engagement strategy can’t succeed without structure.

Keep reading to learn why structure is essential for any omnichannel strategy, and along with three tips for allowing flexibility within that structure.

Why Internal Flexibility is Necessary for Omnichannel Customer Engagement — But Only to a Certain Degree

By definition, omnichannel customer engagement requires companies to be active on many channels. This includes email and phone support at the very minimum, and can also encompass live chat,  self-service resources, and even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

These same teams are often responsible for maintaining support documentation and guidelines. Plus, they’re expected to resolve issues that require input from other teams within the company, which means keeping open lines of communication internally. That’s a lot of responsibility for one team.

Agents need to be able to field customer questions, issues, and complaints when and wherever they appear. That means moving seamlessly from channel to channel, and delivering the same quality of service on each.

It also means being willing (and expecting to) collaborate on tasks and help other agents out when necessary. And doing all of this requires flexibility. Two workdays are rarely ever the same for customer service professionals, and success in the role requires being okay with this. Still, that flexibility works best when it exists within the confines of an overarching structure that helps streamline and centralize processes internally.

Otherwise, you run the risk of getting overrun with issues, responding poorly or with incomplete information, and offering inconsistent information. An established set of guidelines can eliminate these issues, and help your team respond quickly, efficiently, and consistently.

3 Ways to Balance Strategy and Flexibility for Better Omnichannel Customer Engagement

Balancing strategy and flexibility isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve compiled three tips you can use to incorporate both into your customer service approach and provide a top-notch omnichannel engagement experience.

1. Create a Clear Set of Customer Service and Support Guidelines

The first step in blending structure and flexibility is creating a clear set of service and support guidelines that will serve as your team’s general roadmap. These guidelines can (and should) include all of the tasks your support agents handle on a daily or monthly basis, ranging from customer interactions to internal communication.

Within larger organizations, they should also include the processes and systems used to manage teams of agents, as well as the communication between those teams. If your support staff includes separate teams for phone support and email support, for example, your guidelines should include a protocol for communication between the two.

But regardless of your team’s structure, you can start by setting expectations for each customer interaction. Determine appropriate response times for each type of inquiry, along with expected resolution times for common issues.

If your team often fields questions regarding lost passwords, for example, you might put together a resource outlining the appropriate solution for this problem. This can even include templates that your agents can copy-and-paste for email support, or read word-for-word during phone interactions. Then, based on past engagements, you might determine that this issue can and should be fully resolved within five minutes — and you can include this in your guidelines, as well.

The clearer you are with your expectations, the better understanding your agents will have of what excellent performance in their roles looks like. Plus, straightforward guidelines ultimately simplify the process of finding resolutions, making it easier to solve common customer issues.

And when all of your agents are working with the same set of expectations, you can be sure that they’re all on the same page — so that when it comes time to collaborate, there’s unlikely to be disagreement over the appropriate solution for a problem.

2. Establish Open Communication Between Internal Teams

Addressing customer needs isn’t the sole responsibility of one team. Questions and issues often require input from multiple teams. This means that the customer engagement process includes not only support staff, but also employees from marketing, sales, product, engineering, and even your company’s warehouse. And in order to be efficient, these teams shouldn’t work in silos.

For example, let’s say your company’s primary product is accounting software, and a customer reaches out because they’re having trouble using a specific feature. While your support team likely understands your product’s core functionality well enough to walk customers through solutions, new or advanced features might be out of the scope of their knowledge.

As a result, they’ll need to contact a developer or engineer to find a resolution. And they should be able to do this quickly and efficiently. This means it’s essential to establish open lines of communication between your teams.

Whether you opt to have a single person from each team “on call” for set periods of time throughout the day or automatically assign support tickets to employees in departments outside of your customer-facing team, your support agents need a way to get the information they need. Plus, as other departments are regularly looped in on customer issues, they can identify which of their own processes are in need of improvement.

If your sales team sees that new clients are reaching out to your customer service team because they’re confused about the terms of their contracts, for example, this indicates that these documents aren’t as clear as they could be. And if your developers notice that customers are struggling to use a new feature, this shows that the onboarding process needs some work.

Establishing open lines of communication can help each of your departments not only work together but recognize their own shortcomings much more efficiently than if they operated entirely independently of one another.

3. Choose the Right Customer Support Software

The customer support software you choose can have a major impact on the level of service you deliver. It plays a role in how your agents interact with both customers and with one another, and can even streamline certain processes like ticketing and reminders. With that in mind, it’s essential to choose a platform that’s built for omnichannel support if you plan to assist your customers on multiple platforms.

Choose a solution that lets you not only manage all of your channels but also integrate them into a centralized dashboard. This way, your agents won’t need to switch between platforms to resolve tickets that come in on different channels. Beyond that, a great support platform will also enable both internal and cross-departmental collaboration.

This way, your team can easily loop each other in on specific tickets and share responsibility for finding solutions — even with employees in other departments. Plus, many platforms today now make it easy to store customer data, making it easier than ever to deliver cohesive support experiences even over the course of multiple interactions and tickets.

For example, if a customer reaches out to your team by phone and has their issue fully resolved, but contacts you by email months later with another question, the second agent should be able to access information regarding their first interaction.

This way, they can start the conversation in a way that’s tailored to that customer’s needs. This eliminates disconnects and can streamline the experience from the time a customer first lands on your website all the way through every touchpoint they have for years to come.

Conclusion

Flexibility and structure may seem like incompatible elements in a customer service strategy. But ultimately, you need them both to succeed.

Without structure, customer support can quickly devolve into a disorganized free-for-all. But without flexibility, your team will miss out on the efficiency gains that occur when agents are empowered to support one another and think outside of the box. Fortunately, the two are by no means mutually exclusive.

First, create a clear set of customer service guidelines for your team to reference. Include standard responses for certain issues, and set expectations for important metrics. Then, establish open communication between your support staff and all other departments that play a role in the customer service process. Finally, choose a support platform that allows your team to manage all channels from a centralized location, collaborate with one another, and involve other employees when necessary.

With this structure in place, you can be confident your team has the information and knowledge they need to deliver customer service that’s up to your standards — and can then exercise their own judgment to work efficiently within it.